Learning, fun, and rockets soar high during World Space Week programmes
At the open ground near the Regional Science Centre and Planetarium, the countdown starts. What follows is a low whistling sound and a sudden blast of pressure as a rocket noses its way up into the cloudy afternoon sky to screams of excitement and glee from the audience.
The rocket, a 1.5-litre soft drink bottle, is hardly visible.
What is seen is a steady rose-coloured stream of water, courtesy a potassium permanganate mix, to help the crowd track the missile’s trajectory.
After climbing 200 metres, the rocket came tumbling down with a thud. Forty more were scheduled to follow in the next two hours.
Welcome to the model rocket launching event organised by the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) / Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in association with the Regional Science Centre and Planetarium here on Sunday to celebrate the World Space Week, 2013.
Over 200 students, constituting 41 teams from various schools in the district, are competing to complete a “mission to design a water rocket capable of reaching the highest altitude possible.”
They were there to learn the basic principles of rocketry.
“The students made rocket science look easy. They just have bottles, adhesive tapes, stands to serve as launch pads and oodles of confidence,” Sheeba Anilkumar, a government school teacher who came to watch the launch with her two sons, said.
The official statement of the planetarium describes a water rocket as a “chamber partially filled with water”. “Air is forced inside the rest of the volume. When the rocket is released, the pressurised air forces the water out of the bottle which propels the bottle in the opposite direction. Ballast mass is added in the nose cone area and fins are attached to the bottle for stability,” it said.
Planetarium Director V.S. Ramachandran said how the event was previously a “low-key” affair, until he decided to talk to VSSC/ISRO scientists about nitrogen-filled cylinder for model rockets.
“Ten days ago, some of the scientists visited the planetarium to further discuss the idea. We then decided to go ahead with it. The response was excellent,” Mr. Ramachandran said.
Safety was premium. All the models underwent a thorough visual inspection and aerodynamic stability test before being cleared for launch. The students were provided with materials and tools required to make the rockets.
The first prize went to Devagiri CMI Public School, followed by Parappanpoyil NRHS and Dayapuram EMHSS.
The winners, accompanied by a teacher as escort, will visit the VSSC in Thiruvananthapuram on October 10.